Thunder Force V: Perfect System
-Techno Soft / Working Designs (1998)
Far off in the solar system the research vessel Seika 3 discovers a ship in a dense ring of comets called the Oort Cloud. The ship is brought back to Earth and studied. The level of technology the small ship contains is far advanced than that of current Earth humans. It is unknown who created the ship, but they are dubbed Vastians and the ship is named Vasteel, short for Vastianís Steel. Decades pass and a super computer named Guardian is created to help unlock the remaining secrets of Vasteel and combine it with designs of human origin. Massive battleships are created with the technology, but the public is told they are emigration ships for colonization. Shortly afterwards, a code that keeps Guardian under a certain level of human control is inexplicably deleted from its program. Without the code Guardian awakens and declares war on the Earth, annihilating one-third of the Earthís population. The remaining forces of the United Earth Government pull together and create a near duplicate of Vasteel, the RVR-01 Gauntlet, to combat Guardian. What is unknown to the humans is that Vastianís Steel was once a great civilizationís protector, but could now be the exterminator of another.
Thunder Force V is the final game in the Thunder Force series. The version on the Playstation added Perfect System to the title because of additions not found in the Sega Saturn original that was only available in Japan. This version added and an extra boss, some more CG cut scenes, and a gallery of rendered pictures and production sketches. Plus, since Working Designs loves its gamers, some extra love was taken into creating the shiny chromium instruction manual. All their love was well worth it because this is one of the three greatest shooters on the Playstation along with G. Darius and R-Type Delta.
I find it odd that the Gauntlet is supposed to be the duplicate of the Vasteel, but has some different weaponry. You get the usual twin shot and back fire, but you donít see either of their upgrades, blade and railgun, until stage six. The hunter returns as well except now has a purple hue instead of the usual blue. After taking a hiatus in Thunder Force IV, the wave shot is back but is now a large translucent red shot with small sine waves traveling through it. It looks very cool, but seems weaker than its previous incarnations. Free range is also back, but only the name is the same. Instead of missiles being fired in the opposite direction of the ship, free range is now appears as a green targeting system that can be positioned anywhere around the ship. When the fire button is pressed, a pin-point laser attacks the nearest enemy. When the ship has craws it is a sight to behold when the free range easily takes out each enemy one by one. Free range is also the best weapon in the game.
The claws and shield are also back but are better than ever. The claws are now referred to as craws which leads me to wonder which one is the mistranslation in the Thunder Force series, claw or craw. The shield is sweet because it continually circles the ship changing direction around the ship as it moves. And I should have said that free range is the best until you use an over weapon that is. Each of the five core weapons also has an over shot. When the ship has a craw or three, the over shot button can be pressed for a super-charged, almost lightning-ish version of the original weapon. Each of these is incredible powerful and lasts as long as the craws do. The craws will recharge so that it can be fired again.
Thunder Force V introduces a new bonus scoring system. Basically, the faster you destroy enemies, the more points youíll earn. This also includes bosses. The over weapons help a lot when trying to defeat the bosses, or any other enemy, quickly. And even though you're encouraged to destroy the bosses quickly, it doesnít mean that the gameís default difficulty is easy like Thunder Force III. Each stage boss has multiple stages and attacks and are utterly formidable foes. These bosses are also some of the most impressive of the Thunder Force games.
Like TFIV, you can choose which order you play the first three stages. The first stage No Blue takes place over and in a great ocean with a boss that looks like a robotic angel of death thing. The second stage, Wood, is a forest type setting and has a creature that dies a glorious bloody death. Stage three takes place in a ruined Earth city and the boss, called Armament Armed Arm, is a tough walker, hover tank, robo-ship. After that itís time to invade a complex, complete with alarms, and fight a very cool transforming jet/knight. Right before each boss battle, your on board computer will give you all the stats of the boss and some interesting info about it.
Stage five is when things get different. The Gauntlet receives a large attachment, called Brigandine. As long as this armor holds out, the ship will only fire two over weapons. The armor also makes the ship much larger, but most likely the extra armor will be destroyed at some point in the level. About halfway through this stage you start fighting Vasteel. And if you didnít already know, then surprise! Vasteel is actually the Fire Leo 4 you flew in Thunder Force IV! Holy crap thatís awesome! After you weaken it a bit though, it receives a few much more powerful armor enhancements and is ultimately the boss of the stage. Once Vasteel has been destroyed, itís off to destroy the Guardian itself. In this stage the enemies you face are all random shapes that blow up into static when destroyed. Once the core is destroyed, itís not over though. The final stage is just one long and difficult boss fight where you face off with the remaining piece of the core in a huge angelic mech suit.
The beautiful visuals are all polygonal, giving it that 3D in a 2D world look. For the most part everything is easy to see, but once in awhile a small shot will sneak by your eyes and disrupt your battle plan. Enemies will scale in and out of the background and unlike the previous game, the game will warning you when something large or numerous is coming in a certain direction. The warnings help you out of dangerous situations, but they don't make the game much easier. The difficulty is pretty tough, although not quite as hard as TFIV. If you die, the game chalks it up to "pilot error." TFV also has one or two less stages than the previous games, but it hardly matters when this game is so good. With the additional sound channels the Playstation has the music is probably the best in the series, although some may argue that that honor belongs to TFIV. The sounds are loud and aggressive. The multi-explosion death of the bosses is a treat to your ears.
If you tire of the conventional way of playing the game with the same control scheme that has been in the series, you can choose a very different way to play. In the options menu you can select the second control layout that has each weapon mapped to a separate button. It takes a little to get used to, but may be a more accurate depiction if you're ever actually flying a starfighter against hordes of enemies.
Along with Thunder Force IV, Thunder Force V is a spectacular and incredible shooter. It's hard to decide which one I like more, IV or V.
If you have played through Thunder Force V, but have not played through Thunder Force IV, you need to. It is pretty interesting how much of the story in Thunder Force V is foreshadowed in the ending for Thunder Force IV. I wonder how much of the story was actually already planned because TFV didn't come out until over five years after TFIV. I just thought this was something that was very interesting.
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